Monday, April 22, 2024

Feds slam Water Services Bill

Avatar photo
Farmers’ worst fears have been realised on water drinking reforms that will impact heavily on rural communities. Federated Farmers president Andrew Hoggard slammed the Water Services Bill report, saying people will now opt-out of being a drinking water supplier.
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Farmers' worst fears have been realised on water drinking reforms that will impact heavily on rural communities.

Federated Farmers president Andrew Hoggard slammed the Water Services Bill report, saying people will now opt-out of being a drinking water supplier.

“We are profoundly disappointed to see the Water Services Bill reported back with the definition of a water supplier unchanged.

“The Government has now signed itself up for the enormous task of tracking down every single source of drinking water in the land and making them belong to a register if they supply any other household,” Hoggard said.

Feds suggest up to 75,000 drinking water suppliers could be affected.

“We asked for anyone supplying less than 50 people to be exempted, but in the end were not heard,” he said.

Despite extensive arguments from Feds and many others at the select committee hearings, tens of thousands of rural and farm supply arrangements will now fall within the scope of the new water regulator Taumata Arowai.

The new agency takes over from the Ministry of Health to take responsibility for the quality and provision of drinking water in New Zealand.

“The Government has jumped in at the deep end of this pool and they are likely to drown their officials in the paperwork this decision is going to create,” he said.

“We know people are going to choose to opt-out of being a drinking water supplier, rather than face the compliance dramas.

“And that just means someone else is going to have to figure out how to supply those homes, marae and rural community centres with drinking water.”

In July 2020, the Government launched the Three Waters Reform programme, a three-year programme to address the challenges facing council-owned and operated three water services.

Government is proposing to establish four publicly owned entities to take responsibility for drinking water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure across NZ. 

Policy consultant Elizabeth Soal says while the Three Waters Reform will affect rural communities, it is the how the Waters Services Bill will fit into three waters reforms that has potential for the greater impact on rural communities.

The Three Waters review includes service delivery reform that steers towards intertwining with the Water Services Bill and its reforms around drinking water.

While submissions to the Water Services Bill closed in March, Soal suggests it “kind of flew under the radar”.

“It will be interesting how the Three Waters Reform will link with the Waters Services Bill,” Soal said.

“At the moment we don’t know for sure; it is though looking most likely, between the two, that there will be a lot of impact on rural communities.”

Soal says many irrigation schemes and small rural water supplies will now be deemed suppliers of drinking water and meeting the requirements of the Bill could collectively cost millions of dollars.

This includes source water protection, water safety plans, treatment, and testing.

Some of the reasons they have become water suppliers is because due to historic arrangements and very fast civic development, there is no water supply in place on farms or in the area, and in many cases they provide for domestic supply or to a regional council.

In other cases, irrigation distribution systems are used to deliver water, which in turn becomes a drinking water supply.

Farms with multiple buildings, dwellings, employee accommodation, dairy sheds and woolsheds and farm offices that share a single-water source will come under fire.

“The Waters Services Bill alone will have a very serious effect,” she said.

“For farms, small rural water supplies and irrigation schemes, it will be extremely costly,” she said.

“Situations such as irrigation schemes delivering water through their infrastructure to councils for urban supply will be required to meet the Bill’s requirements because irrigation schemes defined under the Water Services Bill are now a supplier, even if indirectly.

“It’s difficult for small communities to understand the implications for them as we don’t know yet how it is going to work in practice if we get these mega entities.”

In the future, under climate change scenarios, Soal says it will likely become increasingly challenging for irrigation schemes that provide domestic supplies as they are called on more and more and meet with increasing compliance in terms of funding and expertise.

“It’s going to be a tough one,” she said.

Total
0
Shares
People are also reading